Cancer Rates Higher Near Mountaintop Removal Sites


Here’s more bad news for the coal industry, courtesy of West Virginia University professor Michael Hendryx: communities near surface mining sites suffer much higher rates of cancer than other parts of the state.  The new study links an additional 60,000 cases of cancer to mountaintop removal, showing, once again, that these mining practices aren’t just environmentally dangerous.  They are actively harming human health.

“The odds for reporting cancer were twice as high in the mountaintop mining environment compared to the non-mining environment in ways not explained by the age, sex, smoking, occupational exposure, or family cancer history,” wrote Hendryx in the report.  ”Efforts to reduce cancer and other health disparities in Appalachia must focus on mountaintop mining portions of the region.”

Many mining officials have tried to dismiss studies like these, and even went so far as to suggest that another one of Hendryx’s findings, which linked higher rates of birth defects to exposure to strip mining, was actually due to inbreeding.  But each piece of scientific research adds to the case for ending mountaintop removal, which provides a surprisingly small fraction of coal production nationwide.

Jim Biggers has a great piece for Alternet about the environmental advocates’ efforts to bring findings like these to the attention of federal officials.  Last month, these leaders went to Washington to ask key political authorities to “enact an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of the spiraling health and human rights crisis related to mountaintop removal mining.”

For the West Virginia residents who see their neighbors struck down by illnesses, these studies just confirm what they already know: mountaintop removal is poisonous to the surrounding communities.  What we now need to do is make sure that the Obama administration takes notice.  You can find more information about ending mountaintop removal here.

Related Stories:

Big Coal Says Inbreeding, Not Mining, Is Causing Birth Defects

Film Reveals Struggle for the Last Appalachian Mountains

Susan Sarandon Asks Banks to Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal (VIDEO)

Photo from via flickr.


Caterina L.
Caterina L5 years ago

Whether it causes cancer or not, is not really the issue here? The author is trying to draw attention to the fact that this is a cancer on earth! Eventually it affects humans. It is all about biodiversity and our connection with the planet. Disgustingly horrific that companies are allowed to practice such distructive behaviour and are compensated. Make an impact and let your government know that you will not allow this CANCER ON EARTH! See the bears being buryed alive petition!!!!

federico bortoletto

Grazie dell'articolo.

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

Thanks If they will do that their just think what they will do in your neighbor hood to get something they want.

Harry B.
Harry B6 years ago

Just to be accurate. This article does not say mountaintop mining "causes" cancer in 60,000 people. Dr. Hendryx has already gotten criticism along these lines. His data says that people who live in MTR areas are more likely to develop cancer than people in the control group. I know its a subtle difference for most of us, but showing that causal relationship is a quantum leap higher in complexity and cost. For me, the fact that by living in the area I statistically increase my risk of developing cancer is scary enough. If you go see "Last Mountain" you'll see anecdotal descriptions of several people in one neighborhood near a MTR mining area developed brain cancer. I know it's not causal proof, but it would be enough to scare the hell out of me. (Perhaps that's big coal's plan. Give lots of people cancer and birth defects and the rest will sell out and move to the city. Then they could blow up the mountains and there would be nobody around to complain.)

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Ruth D.
Nicholas H D6 years ago

BIG COAL, BIG OIL etc., could not care less. Interested only in MONEY AND PROFITS, MONEY AND PROFITS. People, oh well they're expendable, as long as there's a few to do the menial jobs.

joe M.
joe MARTINEZ6 years ago

Miner's are victims of soc-economics forced to work under this unhealthy environment. They have been trapped in these mining areas for generations unabe to escape by lack of resources. For example in Pennsylvania mining people were able to escape from mining to work in the steel industry. These folks have thrived managed to educate their children and never returned to mining. This is proof that given the chance these poor people would do the same.

Bernadette P.
berny p6 years ago

Give them 5 seconds to bribe a scientist or a doctor to "prove you wrong"

Asiatic Lion
Asiatic Lion6 years ago

are we going to have to petition to save mountain tops too?

Valarie S.
Valarie Snell6 years ago

good article